Maduro moving fast to consolidate power in Venezuela

Wednesday, 02 Aug, 2017

Maduro's "recent actions, culminating in yesterday's outrageous seizure of absolute power through the sham election of the national constituent assembly, represent a very serious blow to democracy in our hemisphere", National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster said at a White House briefing Monday.

In a celebratory speech late Sunday, Maduro warned he would take harsh measures against opposition leaders and some news media, including jail terms. The election received criticism from around the world, including from Venezuela's traditional allies.

2017 11:46PMThe Trump administration on Monday froze assets, banned travel and prohibited Americans from dealing with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, calling him a dictator and accusing him of undermining democracy after he carried out an election Sunday for an all-powerful new legislative assembly in defiance of warnings from the global community.

For a view from the ground in Venezuela, we reached out to journalist Mariana Zuniga in Caracas.

When pressed by Julia on the abduction of the opposition leaders, Griffiths said this sort of thing "happens all too frequently" in democratic countries. Nevertheless, the street demonstrations continued-as did the government's crackdown-yielding the current tally of about 90 protesters killed, hundreds wounded, and 3,000 arrested. Worse, the government stacked the election to its advantage, arranging it so that the constituyente would draw one delegate from each municipality, which disproportionately favored the thinly populated rural areas where Maduro is most popular.

ZUNIGA: Well, on the west part of Caracas, the vote developed really peacefully in the morning.

Maduro's opponents at home and overseas described the election of a "temporary parliament" a naked attempt to subvert the authority of the National Assembly, with Spanish daily El Pais calling it "the last red line that separates a democracy from a dictatorship".

Direct economic sanctions against Maduro, among them the freezing of assets under United States jurisdiction.

The electoral council's vote counts in the past have been seen as reliable and generally accurate, but the widely mocked announcement appeared certain to escalate the polarization and political conflict paralyzing the country.

"If it was such a fraudulent political process, why would so many people be involved?"

Young Venezuelans have taken to the streets to protest the vote, known locally as "la constituyente", or the constituent - leading to violent clashes.

CORNISH: And so here we are today.

On that occasion he said that Cuba's stand would always be firm and without hesitation "because the hour has come for peoples to learn to defend themselves and claim their rights".

ZUNIGA: Yeah. People woke up in shock because they didn't believe these results.

Like many nations emerging from a long tenure under a charismatic strongman leader, Venezuela has struggled to fill the vacuum left by Chavez. So that's why people - they were expecting, like, a more strong reaction from the opposition.

"I feel terrible, frustrated with this fraud", said Caracas resident Giancarlo Fernandez, 35.

"The opposition is going to try to set up a parallel government in a bid for worldwide recognition". In 1973, Chileans elected socialist Salvador Allende, only to see him toppled by a USA -backed coup.